Young Democrats in New Hampshire were siding overwhelmingly with Bernie Sanders but it was his opponent, Hillary Clinton, who seemed to have won the hearts of most among a group of British students who have been here for days knocking on doors and making calls for her campaign.
Mostly undergraduates from across the United Kingdom, they all won places in a programme dubbed ‘45forthe45th’; the US this year chooses its 45th president. The original idea was to bring 45 students to this side of the water to join the election circus, but so large was the interest about 75 were selected.
It’s a non-partisan exercise, Suzanne Davies, one of the organisers, insisted, dreamed up as a way of not just educating young people about the US process but “hopefully helping later to engage young people better at home”. Political participation by the young in Britain is the lowest in Europe.
While the idea was to make the visitors useful to as many of the campaigns as possible, including on the Republican side, it turned out that most wanted to help Ms Clinton both here in Iowa for the caucuses last week and in the days leading up to the New Hampshire primary election.
“It’s been such a crazy, foreign experience,” said Alice Grierson, 20, an Edinburgh University student, not least caucus night in Iowa where she looked on as Democrat voters at one caucus site near Des Moines scrapped over who to support. “People literally pounced on people who were undecided and tried to bring them to their side. I have to say it may not be a particularly efficient way of doing things.”
And why so little love for Bernie among the Brits? “I think he’s an idealist, but I don’t think he’d be a very good general election candidate and we do not want a Republican to win the White House,” Ms Grierson said.
With Iowa and New Hampshire finally over, the students will be flying home late on 10 February. But most of them plan to return to the US for Super Tuesday, when 14 states vote, on 1 March and then again for the general election in November. Which might be good news for Ms Clinton.
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